You can apply for an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship once as a rising senior before you enter a graduate program, and once during your first two years of graduate studies. This raises the question, “When should I apply?” The answer is easy for grad students entering their second year: apply NOW! And it's easy for rising seniors: apply now because you'll get another bite after you're admitted. It's more complicated [...]
The GRFP fellowship application requires three letters of recommendation, two essays, and university transcripts. So which of these is the most important? Trick question. There is no “most important component.” Applications are reviewed holistically. This means that the reviewers are supposed to look at the entire application as a whole. Based on that holistic impression, they’ll decide whether you qualify or not.
Why don’t superstars always win? All the GRFP advice I’ve found is pretty straightforward: (1) compile the information that demonstrates you’re already awesome; (2) outline a clear career plan that shows you’ll continue being awesome; and (3) demonstrate a commitment to service which extends your awesomeness. Done. But you still didn’t win. Granted, there is always someone better out there. But this is isn’t a head-to-head [...]
The NSF is divided into broad directorates like Biological Science, Engineering,Social/Behavioral/Economics Science, etc. These are divided into divisions, which are further subdivided into programs or fields of study. For example, the Math and Physical Science directorate includes divisions of Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, etc. Within the Chemistry Division are programs in Chemical Catalysis, Chemical Synthesis, etc. The Appendix to the Program Announcement contains a comprehensive list of fields: Some projects fit clearly into one [...]